Shirlee was born in Benton Harbor, Michigan, as an only child. One year later, she was featured with her blue ribbon in the Benton Harbor Herald for being the healthiest girl born in Benton Harbor that year! So began her public life. When she was four, she rode an elephant while visiting her grandma Minnie in Florida. That same winter, Minnie elbowed her way up to the front of the crowd so that Shirlee could shake hands with President Herbert Hoover. When Shirlee was five, her dad accepted a job opportunity that took her family to Gary, Indiana. There she experienced her first airplane ride in an open-cockpit plane. Her great-uncle Bill sprang for the $5.00 fee for a 20-minute trip around Gary Airport — a once-in-a-lifetime thrill.
Shirlee attended Indiana University in Bloomington for two years. There she pledged Pi Beta Phi sorority and described her college experience there as spectacular. She maintains contact with her sorority sisters to this day. She returned home to work at the Northern Indiana Public Service Company while taking night classes at Indiana University’s extension campus in East Chicago, Indiana. She finished her schooling and took jobs with both Gary Steel Mills and the War Manpower Commission. She later became a stewardess for American Airlines. After her training, she was assigned to Fort Worth, Texas, where she planned to apply her fluency in Spanish on fights to Mexico City. Unfortunately, she began to suffer from both air and homesick- ness, which prematurely ended her career. But, as the saying goes, “When one door closes, another opens,” and, for Shirlee, that door was an offer to join the staff of Congressman Ray J. Madden from Indiana’s 1st District.
Shirlee rented a small bedroom in a rooming house for girls on Massachusetts Avenue and began her secretarial duties in the Cannon House Office Building across the street from the Capitol. She was enrolled in night classes at American University, while rubbing elbows with the movers and shakers during the day. One of the congressmen on Mr. Madden’s committee was bachelor John F. Kennedy, who dated one of Shirlee’s close friends!
It was in Washington where Shirlee met the love of her life, Bill M., then a student at Georgetown University Law School. They dated for two years before marrying in June 1950. During their 50 years of marriage, the happy couple was blessed with three sons, Bill, Tom and Pat, as well as six grandchildren. Shirlee’s latest role here at Kensington Park is serving as vice president of the Assisted Living Community Resident Council. We are so lucky to have Shirlee and her family with us and we look forward to making lots of wonderful memories with her.